OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
Several people were transported to local hospitals late on Thursday, where they remain in critical condition after getting struck by lightning outside the White House, according to multiple news reports about an alarming phenomenon, where lighting hit several spots at the same time.
“Four people have life-threatening injuries after they were apparently struck by lightning near the White House in Washington, D.C., Thursday evening, fire officials say,” NBC News reported. “Medics rushed two women and two men to area hospitals after they were hurt at Lafayette Park across from the White House, D.C. Fire and EMS said.”
“Thunderstorms moved through D.C. and surrounding areas about 6:30 p.m. Severe weather drenched parts of the region after a sweltering day of temperatures in the mid-90s,” the report added.
No further information was immediately available.
Lightning strikes RIGHT in front of the White House pic.twitter.com/Kg6YJWnCNu
— Mary Margaret Olohan (@MaryMargOlohan) August 5, 2022
Experts said 6 separate lightning strikes hit the same exact area within a fraction of a second.
The lightning strike hit Lafayette Park which sits directly across the street from the White House, Vito Maggiolo, a spokesperson for DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said in a news conference Thursday evening. “All four were suffering critical, life-threatening injuries,” when help arrived, said Maggiolo, who was unable to provide additional details about the incident or the victims’ conditions.
The victims were riding out the storm under a tree, according to a law enforcement source.
Two men and two women were transferred to area hospitals, DC Fire and EMS tweeted. Maggiolo said officials from the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service and the Park Police were on scene immediately to help with the response.
A severe thunderstorm hit the DC region around 7 p.m. ET Thursday.
NBC reported on further details:
“U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park Police officers rushed to help the two women and two men when they saw the lightning strike, D.C. Fire and EMS Public Information Officer Vito Maggiolo told News4.
The victims were at Lafayette Square across from the White House, near the center statue of former President Andrew Jackson as well as a tree, Maggiolo said.
Medics took the women and men to hospitals. Maggiolo said he could not elaborate on their exact injuries.
“All we know for sure is that there was a lightning strike in their vicinity, in their immediate vicinity, and all four were injured,” he said.
“I was just in a state of shock,” witness David Root said. “I just couldn’t believe it. Was surreal. I have never seen anything like this in my entire life.”
He described hearing “a horrific boom.” He said he goes to Lafayette Square every evening with a group to show support for the people of Ukraine. When heavy rain started coming down, he took cover under a tree until he saw lightning strike across the park.
Without thinking, he said he sprang into action to save a man’s life.
“We saw several people beside a tree, and they weren’t moving, and so I ran over there to try to help,” Root said. “Several people ran over there, and I gave him chest compressions with another person. We alternated.”
“We stood there, and suddenly there was this horrible sound,” said witness Anna Mackiewicz, who is visiting from Poland. “We started to scream, and my husband said, ‘Just let’s run away.’ I saw in the corner of my eye. I saw, you know, the light.”
“I just hope and pray that these people survive,” Root said. “That’s the most important thought in my mind right now.”
About 240,000 incidents of lightning strikes happen globally each year. According to National Geographic, annually, about 2,000 people are killed worldwide by lightning.
“Lightning is a major cause of storm-related deaths in the U.S. A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest (heart stopping) at the time of the injury, although some victims may appear to have a delayed death a few days later if they are resuscitated but have suffered irreversible brain damage.
According to the NWS Storm Data, over the last 30 years (1989-2018), the U.S. has averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability. More recently, in the last ten years (2009-2018), the U.S. has averaged 27 lightning fatalities,” according to Weather.com
The CDC reports:
About 40 million lightning strikes hit the ground in the United States each year. But the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are less than one in a million, and almost 90% of all lightning strike victims survive.
The odds of being struck multiple times is even less, with the record being seven times in one lifetime. There are some factors that can put you at greater risk for being struck, such as participating in outdoor recreational activities or working outside. Regional and seasonal differences can also affect your risk of being struck by lightning.